NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Resistance”

Resupply operations of this ship are not –repeat, not– optional. All ships to recommence scheduled supply runs immediately. Failure to comply will result in…stern measures.

Air Date: 05/08/2005

Director: Allan Kroeker

Writer: Toni Graphia

Synopsis: Colonel Tigh’s command falls apart as more and more of the crew turn against him in the wake of a shooting in the Fleet. On Caprica, Starbuck and Helo stumble into a group of armed survivors.

Review

“Resistance” is an episode that starts and ends with blood. In the opening scene Colonel Tigh strikes Tyrol, and a single drop of blood falls from his face to the floor. In the closing scene, a dying Boomer lets a similar drop of blood fall onto a catwalk floor. The implication couldn’t be clearer: amid all the accusations of being a Cylon, amid all the protestations about being human, the similarities between the two are more clear than a lot of people are happy to accept. Shylock isn’t far from the mind: Hath not a Cylon eyes? Much of “Resistance” will come back to that central idea, that humanity has enough in common with Cylons to perhaps not treat them as the devil incarnate. They should instead be looking inward at their own faults and weaknesses.

I do want to talk a bit more about that opening scene. It’s another wonder in many ways: the subtle, unspoken callbacks to previous episodes with Cylon interrogations, Tigh appearing more disheveled and unhinged long before other characters will make that perception more manifest, some fantastic back-and-forth between Michael Hogan and Aaron Douglas and some really unique cinematography choices from Kroeker (the shot where we are on the ground looking up past Tyrol’s body is a great way of putting us in his shoes, having previously seen a version of this scene, in “Scattered”, very much from the other direction). “Resistance” hooks you in and hooks you in fast, ahead of an episode that is more determined than the previous three to move things along at pace.

Once again much pivots around the human disaster that is Saul Tigh. The same weakness that he was displaying in “Fragged” remains, and has only gotten worse. Where Adama had both a sense of authority and a commitment to some measure of rule by consent when it came to the Fleet, Tigh has an inescapable whiff of desperation to every decision backed up by an arrogant presumption he should never be questioned. He’s still drinking when he shouldn’t, displaying contempt for others when he shouldn’t, and, most importantly, listening to his wife when he shouldn’t.

Away from his quarters, Tigh continues to mess up, and mess up bad. While decent in a military crisis, he’s much less effective when it comes to more far-sighted military decisions, as he first finds himself unable to maintain supply runs to the Galactica, then gets too aggressive, with the Fleet, then compounds both errors by ballsing up the military reaction, placing pilots in charge of ground troops. Tigh is a better follower, an executor of Adama’s commands, and proves incapable of being both decision maker and decision-enactor.

The last key moment of command for Tigh comes at the episodes conclusion, as he is faced with the choice of letting Apollo and Roslin go, thus furthering the dissent in the Fleet, or killing Adama’s son. It’s an unenviable position, where Tigh looks weak with the first option, and tyrannical with the second. Tigh backs down, and we can feel the frustration seeping off of the man in the process, but it is the right call really, perhaps giving the audience a rare reason to see some good in Tigh: no matter what else, he is loyal to Adama still, and the idea of killing his son is not something he can follow through with.

It’s the beginning of Tigh’s redemption really, and the closing scene with Adama is essentially an act of metaphorical absolution for the Colonel. Adama isn’t angry, doesn’t criticise, doesn’t judge. As he says, he’s the only other person left who understands the pressure that Tigh would have been under. When Tigh, acting like a supplicant confessing to a priest, admits that he’s frakked everything up, Adama understands that playing judge, jury and executioner is not the way to go. It’s time to start picking up the pieces, and that starts with Tigh.

And what of the resistance movement from which the episode gets its name? It’s remarkable how quickly things have progressed on Galactica: it must be remembered that the events that kickstarted the current crisis only took place a few days before, yet already it seems like a huge portion of the military have decided their oaths of loyalty to the chain of command are optional. As early as the opening scenes, we have Dee, a key member of the CIC personnel, flat-out telling Apollo that she would prefer he was in command: an openly mutinous sentiment, that seems even stranger coming from the same person who lambasted Billy for fermenting mutiny on the Galactica in “Valley Of Darkness”. Is this reflective of just how bad things have gotten with Tigh, or is it an instance of underwhelming writing?

The issue here is I suppose whether the mutiny is believable or not. Certainly Tigh is a disaster in command. Perhaps we should look at the alternative to Tigh as an answer. Apollo is upright, courageous, good in various levels of crisis and with a degree of charisma Tigh never held. Roslin has prophetic appeal, and demonstrates a degree of long-term strategic thinking that Tigh lacks, such as when she outlines how the Gideon shooting will inevitably lead to the break-up of the Fleet if nothing is done.

Still though, look at the list of military mutineers here. There’s Apollo, there’s Dee, there’s Gaeta in a limited way, there’s Cottle. There are pilots and deckhands and Marines. On every level of Galactica’s operations, major figures are satisfied that undermining Tigh is the way to go, as well as allowing for the possibility of an open schism in the Fleet. Part of it doesn’t sit well with me, maybe given later, similar, events in Season Four, the idea that the military ethos is cast off in favour of a drug-induced visions of prophecy and the handsome Captain who held a gun to the XO’s head. But the argument can be made, and must be made, that the military command is operating illegally too, in removing a civilian government it has no right to remove. Thus troop loyalty cannot be considered as sacrosanct as it should be. There’s no easy answer I suppose, and that’s at the heart of what BSG is.

One thing I feel less bad about criticising is Billy in this episode, who helps Roslin in her escape plan but at the last second tells her he can’t go along, as her actions are going to divide the Fleet. Then why is he helping her escape at all? Going along with 90% of the plan and then balking at the last 10% isn’t a moral stand, it’s just bad writing. It seems to me that they wanted to set-up the idea of Billy remaining in the Fleet as an eventual bridge between Adama and Roslin in later episodes but couldn’t figure out a way to do it right. Setting it up in this matter feels very shallow: perhaps Billy could sacrifice his freedom by distracting the Marine who stumbles upon Roslin’s escape? Regardless, Roslin is left having to rely on odd allies, namely Tom Zarek. Nothing Zarek does is without benefit to himself in some way, and Roslin knows this: she’s immediately wary of the man when his alliance is introduced to her. That sort of dynamic promises some great drama within the resistance in future episodes.

Ensconced in the middle of the wider drama are two critical sub-plots that revolve around toxic relationships, with humanoid and Cylons on either side. Tyrol and Boomer are reunited in the worst possible circumstances, with the Chief and his former lover having one of the hardest interactions of the series, he threatening to kill her if she even speaks to him, and she breaking down with a heart-rending wail at seeing yet another aspect of her human life stripped away. Boomer has very little left really, and seems to have a certain level of resignation to her fate: that, in and of itself, is a very human reaction. She seeks some kind of rapprochement with Tyrol, and her words to the effect sound more than a little like a deathbed confession. But however much Boomer, and later Baltar, try to dress this relationship up as a positive, it was still a toxic affair, one that has landed Tyrol in the brig after so much manipulation.

Cally proves to be the one to put a final end to it, at least for the time being anyway. Her obsession with freeing the Chief and putting a bullet in Boomer indicates a maelstrom of emotions are being played out with her: affection for the Chief she’s unable to properly enunciate, hatred for Cylons, perhaps some PTSD or survivors guilt from Kobol. She couldn’t bring herself to raise a weapon against the Centurions out of fear in “Fragged”, but now she gets the chance to make up for it against one of the human models. I’m not a huge fan of this turn from Cally as her part of the episode is mostly about her efforts to free the Chief and then becomes a vendetta against Sharon (thanks to Jammer, rapidly becoming BSG’s go-to “Says the wrong thing” guy) but it isn’t the most nonsensical thing really. At the end of day, it seemed unlikely that Boomer was going to last too much longer anyway, not with the hate the crew have for her.

Then there is Baltar and Six. At first things seem like they have just gone back to normal after the horror of what he was involved with on Kobol: suit, glasses, being undermined by Tigh, it’s Season One all over again. But Baltar has changed as a result of what happened on Kobol, both in his shooting of Crashdown and in his acceptance of the “guardian” role foisted on him by Six: she propels him down a very dark path in this episode, reminding him that he is engaged in what is pretty much a race war of a kind, and that he should no longer tolerate being routinely humiliated.

Baltar rises to that challenge in spectacular fashion. To get what he wants out of Boomer he brings Tyrol a split second away from death, all while openly admitting to her that he was always aware she was a Cylon and covered it up “for my own purposes”. We might remember the Baltar who, panicked at the thought of Boomer killing him, changed her test results in “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down”: no more skulking around that fact now, with Baltar, in control with an eerie calm, subjecting Boomer to a sort of emotional torture. It’s an incredible moment for the Doctor, where the metaphorical gloves well and truly come off. It remains to be seen if this is a manner if proving his manhood to Head Six again, or just his own method of getting back at a Fleet that seems to continually undermine him. Or is he trying, in his own demented way, to prove to himself that a Cylon could love a human?

So much is happening in the Fleet that it is almost a surprise that the episode has time for four full scenes back on Cylon-occupied Caprica, let alone four critical scenes. One of the last main characters of the series, Michael Trucco’s Samuel Anders, gets his introduction here and it is a bit of shock, having gotten used to the idea of Caprica having just two human residents. The Caprica Buccaneers seem like a homage to Red Dawn in a lot of ways, enough that you half expect somebody to shout “Wolverines!”. It’s a cool idea, a mountain resistance of whatever random people were able to avoid the initial apocalypse, enough that you could stand to see an episode about their experience, but the way that Anders fills you in is enough. And it is a resistance without any hope, which imbues us with a certain tragic fascination: if the Cylons don’t get them, the radiation will, whenever their meds run out.

But this is more about Anders and Starbuck. The pyramid game between the two is just another kind of dance really, just one where Kara knows the steps a bit better than she normally would. We might think back to the end of “Colonial Day”, where we saw her dancing with Apollo and Baltar, a situation that led to the relationship disaster that was “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)”. This feels like a better fit for her, a bit more natural: an obvious attraction to a man who seems a lot like her. After all, Anders is a soldier without a cause, fighting just because there is a fight and nothing else. The pyramid thing seems like a way to make that clear, the two grappling back-and-forth in a manner where Starbuck seems more comfortable, especially next to her interactions with Lee and especially with Baltar. Which is not to say that we’ve just seen soulmates meet, but it’s a relationship with, perhaps, more potential than others Kara has had. In a world where we have Tigh/Ellen, Tyrol/Boomer and Baltar/Six, that ain’t nothing.

You know you guys suck, right? Can’t shoot, can’t pass. Sure as hell can’t take the point.

Notes

-Kroeker is back after the less awesome “Bastille Day”. I had forgotten but now remember that he directed the “Ariel” episode of Firefly, and has the odd distinction of having directed the final episodes of three different Star Trek series (“What You Leave Behind” for DS9, “Endgame” for Voyager and “These Are The Voyages…” for Enterprise).

-The very first thing Tigh says in the episode is to note that Tyrol is sweating. That seems like a callback to “Flesh And Bone”, where Starbuck noted the same thing ahead of her interrogation of Leoben. Sweating is a distinctly human act.

-Tigh ain’t looking so good in the opening scene, with some unkempt stubble on his face, and the flask openly in his hand. He does not look like the commander of a battlestar.

-Interesting to note that, even when crediting her for coming up with the preferred method of executing Cylons, Tigh refers to Mary McDonnell’s character as “Roslin”, not the President.

-Tyrol lists out his service record as proof he isn’t a Cylon, and that includes an apparent tour on the Battlestar Pegasus. I don’t think this is ever brought up again later in the season, strangely enough.

-Tyrol tries to claim his “Article 21” rights, as per “Litmus”, but things have changed and Tigh shuts him down on that score. Traditional law and order are no longer the dominant forces on Galactica.

-A brilliant way to showcase Tigh’s continuing failure and weakness: he throws the flash he carries away, walks on, then stops and retrieves it. How utterly pathetic.

-The set-up for Anders’ resistance attacking some “skinjobs” would be perfect if they didn’t mention the car before we see Starbuck and Helo. If they hadn’t the audience would have had the enjoyment of a twist reveal when the camera pans to the two, but when the car is mentioned we know it isn’t Cylons the resistance is watching.

-The count is down just one from “Fragged”, with Crashdown’s death.

-Slightly ridiculous glimpse of Starbuck duel wielding submachine guns, like we’re suddenly watching some video game, or a John Woo movie.

-Interesting to see Head Six describe “Toaster” as a racist term, something I had never even considered before this moment. And of course it is, a dehumanising (emphasis on “human”) epitaph. Her efforts to turn Baltar into an anti-racism crusader here fall flat however, and given the end of this episode that is probably for the best.

-Laughed out loud when Tigh criticises Baltar for his “weaselly technobabble”. Ronald D.Moore is on record as hating that script crutch, describing how he adhered to the requirement in TNG by writing lines like “Mr. La Forge, I need you to tech the tech” and letting others fill in the required gaps.

-Though it is said jokingly in the moment, I do think an important line is crossed when Apollo refers to Tigh as a “dictator”. It’s a verbal admission of everyone’s worst thoughts, and saying it makes it more real.

-Ellen knows just how to get Tigh to dance to her tune, in this case using his respect for Adama: “Bill would never do that”.

-And Tigh dances along to the tune happily, rattling off a belligerent message to be sent to the Fleet, then acting like he’s just mollifying his nagging wife: “You happy now?”

-The resistance has encountered some Cylons before, as Anders sarcastically mimics some of Leoben’s words: “You have a soul, you swim in the stream”. It’s interesting to see that the Leoben model appears to have the same modus operandi anywhere that it is. Or is this all back to “All of this has happened before”? Is Starbuck the pyramid player/resistance leader in another cycle, and is Anders the hotshot pilot, with Leoben the bridging point?

-Venner is a bit more involved in this episode, bringing Roslin food and medicine, aiding in her escape plan. I read recently they had plans to keep him in the show in an expanded role, but couldn’t find the room. Perhaps some kind of security for Roslin?

-The initial idea for the Gideon shooting was apparently to take inspiration from the Kent State massacre, to the extent that some people involved in production dubbed “Resistance” the “Kent State episode”, but Moore later came to believe the affair had more in common with the Boston massacre, perhaps because of the ambiguous question as to who fired the first shot.

-Cottle tells Tigh as it is after the Gideon shooting anyway, sarcastically dubbing the Colonel “genius” for putting “a pilot in charge of crowd control”. You can tell that Cottle is too old (and probably untouchable given the lack of trained medical personnel in the Fleet) to have much respect for Tigh’s position.

-Coming back again to Dee’s anger with Billy about the mutiny in “Valley Of Darkness”, the moment where she fabricates a repair order and gets Tigh’s signature is very important. As we’ll see in a few episodes, Dee serves as the conscience of the ship to a certain extent, so if she’s turned on Tigh, you know things are bad.

-Gaeta is a smart guy, and guesses what Dee is up to. His interjection seemingly puts him still on Tigh’s side, but as we’ll learn Gaeta’s loyalty is often more to the people on his level than those above him.

-Apollo kisses his father goodbye, trying to enunciate the opinion that his actions have nothing to do with their relationship. But I think that’s a reach: what Apollo is doing goes back to their conversation in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)”.

-Roslin still has that ingrained authority, shown when she fearlessly faces down the young Marine blocking her path. That, more than anything else, shows that the military coup is doomed to fail.

-McDonnell does a great job in an otherwise underwhelming scene, really selling the devastating impact of Billy leaving her. The dialogue is all his, but she has enough in her facial expression.

-I also appreciate Michael Hogan’s expressive performance at the moment of decision over whether to shoot down the Raptor or not, you can really feel the doubt and second-guessing going on behind his eyes.

-For all of his warnings to Dee earlier, Gaeta goes along with the lie at the critical moment. This showcases both his loyalty to his comrades in the CIC, but also, again, just how bad things have gotten under Tigh.

-Loving that leather jacket on Tom “Cool Dad” Zarek.

-Roslin diplomatically refers to Zarek as “the enemy of my enemy”, and I love Richard Hatch’s smile with his ice-cool reply: “Call me Tom”.

-I can’t make heads or tails of pyramid as a sport. It looks like some a sort of full contact handball? But there are more than two goals? The court looks tiny for a team sport too, but maybe it’s designed for a smaller version?

-The attraction between Anders and Starbuck is obvious from the get-go, and their pyramid scene might as well have “Unchained Melody” as a backing.

-Baltar tells Tyrol that he should be happy he experienced love, “Even if it was with a machine”. Six’s reaction seems like a mix of appreciation yet also disgust: is she happy Baltar essentially says he loves her out loud, or annoyed at the implication that loving “a machine” is a lesser achievement? Great depiction of conflicting emotions from Tricia Helfer anyway.

-The sudden sight of Adama coming into Tigh’s quarters is a shock, coming right in the middle of the episodes third Tigh/Ellen argument. He looks weak but once we overcome our initial surprise, there’s an undeniable feeling of authority: Ellen leaves, and Adama and Tigh speak about how to fix things.

-Ellen’s hand grasps the outline of the door as she leaves Adama and Tigh, like the character is trying to maintain a grasp on power. But it slips away, just as easily as this temporary grip on power slipped away.

-Boomer’s assassination is so like Jack Ruby’s killing of Lee Harvey Oswald that you might as well have had Tyrol in a tan suit and someone shouting “Cally, you son of a bitch!”

Overall Verdict: “Resistance” is a better episode than it might initially appear, in retrospect. The Fleet based stuff with Tigh, Roslin and Baltar is really good, and the Caprica interjections are laying the groundwork for some good stuff later. More than that though, there’s a sense of progression in the plot that BSG needed: Adama is back, Roslin is free, there are new developments on Caprica. To a certain extent the show was standing still in the first three episodes of Season Two, but now it is moving forward.

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7 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Resistance”

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